Category Archives: Yorkshire

Remembering John Waddington-Feather (1933-2017)

Some reflections on the life of a good friend of ours, John Waddington-Feather, who died on 28 April.  His funeral is being held in Shropshire this afternoon (18 May).

Born in 1933, John grew up in the Lawkholme area of Keighley and studied at Keighley Boys’ Grammar School.  He received his B.A.  in English (with Italian and History) from Leeds University in 1954.  John took a particular interest in dialect studies, an area in which the university had considerable expertise.  He recalled his fieldwork:

‘I remember being pushed in the direction of an elderly farmer above Haworth – a real old Joseph – and his door opened about an inch. His gnarled face peered out and he eyed me suspiciously a while before asking, “Are ta frae t’tax?’ (Fees, 1991).

Intelligence corps rugby team July 1956

Intelligence Corps winning tug-o’-war team  at the Intelligence Corps depot, Maresfield Camp, in Sussex, July 1956.  John Waddington-Feather is second from left on the front row.  Copyright holder unknown.

John’s ‘post-graduate education’ included three months as a ward orderly at a tuberculosis sanatorium near Ilkley and national service in the Intelligence Corps and as a paratrooper.  ‘I needed compassion and a good stomach in the one; and in the other low cunning and native guile!’.  An enthusiastic sportsman, John played rugby union for Crowborough and Sussex.

After national service, John studied medicine for a year, but failed Chemistry, which put an end to his medical career.  He decided to use his English degree as a teacher on HMS Worcester, where he met his future wife.  They moved to Yorkshire where John took up a post at Salt Grammar School, and three daughters were born.

In 1969 an eventful trip across North America on Greyhound buses changed John’s life.  He was mugged, but found unexpected help: ‘I sat next to two ex-convicts newly released from penitentiary, who regaled me with a string of stories about life in prison and looked after me as I recovered’.  On his return to England, John became a prison visitor, wanting to give something back in return for the help those men gave him.  He found the work rewarding, and later decided to become a priest, thanks in part to the suggestion made by a young prisoner.   After studying theology at St Deiniol’s Library, he was ordained in 1977.  The role of non-stipendiary Anglican minister was ideal as he could continue to teach.  He retired from teaching in 1995 though continued prison visiting until very recently: ‘I believe I’m the oldest working prison chaplain in Britain, with more ‘time’ behind me than any of the men I visit.’

However, Special Collections knew John best as an author and as a J.B. Priestley enthusiast, Chairman Emeritus and Vice-President of the J.B. Priestley Society.

Like JB, John was a prolific and fluent writer, and experimented with many genres: scholarly articles, poetry, verse plays, history plays, children’s books, detective stories, historical romance and more.  Following the removal of his one, cancerous, kidney in 2001, John had to spend many hours a week on dialysis.  Writing was, as he said, a lifeline for him during these difficult times.  He used writing as a lifeline for others, for instance, encouraging prisoners to reflect and improve literacy via Poetry Church magazine, which he founded in 1997.  John’s works are characterised by his concern for others, his faith, and the inspiration he continued to draw from his Yorkshire childhood and his wide experience of life.

Wadd_1_QUI. Waddington-Feather, Quill's Adventures in Kangarooland, cover

Quill’s Adventures in Kangarooland

 

Witness the Quill the Hedgehog series, for children (and grown-ups).  Quill and his friends fight to save their world from the destructive evil of Mungo the alleycat and his armies of rats, a parallel to the fate of the West Riding’s countryside during the Industrial Revolution.  Quill’s Adventures in Grozzieland was nominated for the Carnegie medal in 1989.

Wadd_1_All. Waddington-Feather, The Allotment Mystery, cover

The Allotment Mystery

John was early to see the value of online platforms to authors and publishers, creating ‘waddysweb’ to publicise his imprint Feather Books.  More recently he found the Kindle format attracted many purchasers of his Blake Hartley mysteries, (3000+ sales per month).  The mysteries are classic light detective fiction, featuring Inspector Hartley and Sergeant Khan, up against sleaze, crime and red herrings in ‘Keighworth’.

To sum up, it was a privilege to know and work with John.  We are proud to be the home of his archive and book collection, which will ensure his works are remembered and enjoyed for years to come.

References

Fees, Craig (1991).  The imperilled inheritance : dialect & folklife studies at the University of Leeds 1946-1962 Part 1, Harold Orton and the English Dialect Survey.  Folklore Society Library.  In Special Collections, or online on the author’s website.

Quotations are taken from two essays by John, Autobiography (2009) and Post-graduate education (2012), sent in digital pre-publication form.

Links

Waddington-Feather books and archive collections in Special Collections.

100 Objects exhibition article on the story behind Quill Hedgehog.

Obituary in the Keighley News, by Ian Dewhirst.

Rediscovered: J.B. Priestley in the Yorkshire Post

Last weekend the Yorkshire Post published a really interesting piece about J.B. Priestley’s First World War experiences.  The article, by Steve McClarence, uses objects from Priestley’s Archive to tell the story: his shoulder-badge, his photographs, his letters, and above all Priestley’s unforgettable writings about the War in Margin Released and English Journey.  You can see the archive objects for yourself in our current exhibition at the Bradford Industrial Museum.

 

 

JB Priestley: soldier, writer, painter …

J.B. Priestley: Soldier, Writer, Painter.
Curated by the J.B. Priestley Society
Bradford Industrial Museum. 

19 April – 17 August 2014

PRI21_2_1 cr
This summer we bring a unique opportunity to see some different sides to  J.B. Priestley.   You knew he was a writer (we hope).  He was also a …

Soldier …
Aged just 19, “Jack” Priestley joined the British Army in September 1914.  The next five years changed his life forever and that of his home city of Bradford.  The Industrial Museum has a major exhibition about Bradford’s Home Front which our display complements.  We are showing Jack’s letters home and the photographs and memorabilia that travelled with him for the next 50 years.  He used them for inspiration when he drew together his experiences in the dream-like tour de force that is the middle section of his 1962 memoir Margin Released.

Painter …
JB loved art and later in life took up painting as an enjoyable hobby.  The J.B. Priestley Society have assembled 30 of his works for this show.   These intriguing survivals  illustrate the love of landscape that makes so many of his books unforgettable , his understanding of art, and his extensive travels.   A few are still for sale, if you would like a unique bit of Priestleiana in your life.

The exhibition is free and open to all.  You can find out more about opening times etc. on the Museum’s website.

 

 

Who (or What?) is Your Yorkshire Icon?

Our wonderful county of Yorkshire is an incredibly distinctive place,  full of amazing characters, stories, places, and food.  For its 75th anniversary, the Dalesman Magazine is asking people to vote for their Yorkshire icons, to choose the top 75.

Yorkshire sheep somewhere in the Dales, from the Butterfield photo archive.

Yorkshire sheep somewhere in the Dales, from the Butterfield photo archive.

As you might expect, many of the suggested icons have connections with the University, Bradford, or our collections.   For instance, The Dalesman and Bill Mitchell, Harold Wilson (our first Chancellor), J.B. Priestley and of course sheep and WOOL (which made Bradford and the University).

More to follow when the final 75 are revealed!

PS This covers the whole of Yorkshire, not just the Dales!

Forgotten Pleasures: Sheffield rediscovers Willie Riley

I see that I haven’t yet written about the splendid work being done on the popular fiction of the early 20th century at Sheffield Hallam University.  It’s time to put that right!  SHU has an excellent collection of such works.   This blog by Erica Brown chronicles the rediscovery of these often forgotten gems by a reading group.  There’s lots of overlap with our Special Collections – they’ve even been reading J.B. Priestley!

Recently the group turned their attention to the work of Willie Riley, whose archive we have at Bradford.  Riley is a wonderful example of an author who was a best-seller and a household name, thanks to his delightful debut Windyridge, but whose popularity has waned since.

Willie Riley (ref RIL12_3 p.5)

Willie Riley

Riley is now having a mini-revival, thanks to the efforts of former Bradford University student David Copeland, who has written extensively about Willie, uncovered archives and made many fascinating connections.  On 25 October 2013, David will talk about Willie as part of an event on Yorkshire writers during Sheffield’s Off the Shelf festival.  Find out more in this article from Saturday’s Yorkshire Post.

Windyridge Revisited dustjacket

Windyridge Revisited dustjacket – my favourite dustjacket in Special Collections!

New! J.B. Priestley Archive Catalogue April 2013

We’ve just put the latest edition of the catalogue of the J.B. Priestley Archive online.

YMCA "On active service" letterhead from one of J.B. Priestley's letters home.

YMCA “On active service” letterhead from one of J.B. Priestley’s letters home.

Lots of new things and improvements in response to readers’ needs, including:

  • Enhanced section on Priestley’s unpublished scripts for books, plays, television and film.  These  include collaborations with Fred Hoyle and Iris Murdoch.  Lots of detail on the physical nature of the scripts e.g. amendments by Priestley.
  • More letters, notably Priestley’s incredible Great War letters from the trenches.
  • Detailed cataloguing of files on Priestley’s art collection, indexing the artists he collected.
  • Programmes, press cuttings and other responses to Priestley 2008-2012.   Definite revival of interest, encompassing several less well known plays, and from scholarly, political and literary angles.
  • Some sections renumbered for ease of use (don’t worry if you’re using the old numbers, we can cross-refer between them).

More on all the above in future blog posts!

Phyllis Bentley, Thomas Hardy, Sunlight Soap … new in the Society Journal

There’s plenty of good stuff in the latest issue of the J.B. Priestley Society Journal (October 2012, volume 13)

Blue plaque for J.B. Priestley at 34 Mannheim Road, Bradford.

Blue plaque for J.B. Priestley at 34 Mannheim Road, Bradford. The family didn’t move from there straight to Saltburn Place as has traditionally been thought …

  • JC Eastwood on Priestley’s family homes in Bradford – clearing up a mystery!
  • Professor Maggie Gale of Manchester University on Priestley as a “man of the theatre” – the text of her 2012 Society lecture.
  • Priestley’s bibliographer Alan Day on JB’s links with novelist Phyllis Bentley and their opinions of each other’s writings.  Alan Day also looks at a series of “short uplift articles” Priestley wrote for Lever Brothers in 1940 as part of a promotion for Sunlight Soap.  Fascinating parallels to the Postscripts!
  • Trevor Johnson writes about Priestley and Thomas Hardy, in particular the former’s use of Hardy’s poem in the Postscript about the Isle of Wight Volunteers of 16 June 1940.
  • Philip Scowcroft surveys music in Priestley’s writings.

There is also a reprint of a Priestley rarity, “The Soul of Revue”, originally published in 1925 and hitherto unknown.

The Journal isn’t available online*, but is sent in print form to all members of the Society and is available in libraries, including ours of course.

*yet, watch this space!

Welcoming Le Tour to Yorkshire!

Thrilled that the Tour de France is coming to Yorkshire for the first two stages in July 2014!  The route will take in iconic and difficult terrain near Bradford and in the Yorkshire Dales.  This image of cyclists on Kex Gill Pass during the 1930s gives a sense of the challenges to be faced, although we hope the weather will be slightly better for the Tour.

Cyclists in the snow, Kex Gill Pass near Blubberhouses, Yorkshire, by Fred Robinson Butterfield, 1930s

Cyclists in the snow, Kex Gill Pass near Blubberhouses, Yorkshire, by Fred Robinson Butterfield, 1930s

This photo was taken by keen cyclist Fred Butterfield: find out more about him and his fascinating Yorkshire photographs in this entry from our 100 Objects series.

Bradford University and the City have a long interest in cycling.   Like rambling, it has long been popular in this region, the closeness of incredible landscapes to Yorkshire’s industrial cities allowing workers and students to find themselves in rural and remote settings just a few minutes outside the urban bustle.   J.B. Priestley’s writings often show the value he and his contemporaries placed on the Dales as a place for freedom, beauty and adventure.

Here’s the Cycling Club on Richmond Road, just outside the University, in November 1968.  It looks rather chilly, and the accompanying news story observes that “the weather this term has not been favourable”, but “the more hardy members have been going out regularly each week”.

It might be cold, but notice the lack of cars on the road – bliss!

Bradford University Cycling Club outside the University about to set off for a Wednesday afternoon ride, from Javelin 28 November 1968.

The more hardy members of Bradford University Cycling Club, from Javelin 28 November 1968.

Cycling is still really popular at the University: if you’d like to know more, see the University Bicycle Users Group and the Cycling Club websites.

Yorkshire Dalesfolk – in their own words

Today sees the launch in lovely, snowy Settle of a most welcome project which will bring a wealth of historical information to new audiences.  W.R. (Bill) Mitchell, journalist and prolific author, has spent his life gathering and sharing stories of the people and creatures of the Yorkshire Dales, documented in books, articles, photographs and oral history cassettes.

W.R. 'Bill' Mitchell

W.R. ‘Bill’ Mitchell (from WR Mitchell Archive project website).

Led by Settle Stories and funded by the Heritage Lottery, the W.R. Mitchell Archive Project is digitising and cataloguing these cassettes (some of which are held in Special Collections at Bradford) to unlock their wonderful content, about farming, industry, nature and everyday life. Bill spoke to well-known Dalesfolk like Kit Calvert and Marie Hartley, and many many more.  His understanding of their shared landscape and his journalistic experience mean that the recordings bring out the full richness of these peoples’ lives and heritage.

For lots more detail about Bill Mitchell and the project, see the new project website which has just gone live.

Priestley and other Yorkshire Treasures

The J.B. Priestley Archive at the University of Bradford featured in a Yorkshire Post article about amazing archives in our county (Saturday 7 January 2012).  The author also highlighted collections in Leeds, Sheffield, York and Hull, from the famous Liddle Collection of WW1 letters and the papers of another playwright Alan Ayckbourn, to the joys of chocolate and a glass fibre wedding dress.